“There’s nothing in the plan on addressing climate change,” Hughes said. “The science is quite clear that you can’t keep the Great Barrier Reef in good condition if you’re going to develop huge coal reserves. We are already on our way to 2C warming and unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left.
“We need a plan to transition away from fossil fuels well before 2050. Australia’s emissions reduction goal is very, very weak by international standards. We have stewardship of one of the world’s premier reef systems and also stewardship of a huge reserve of fossil fuels – it’s a conflict of interest, really.”
Key threats to the reef, aside from climate change, include pollution flowing onto the ecosystem from agriculture, cyclones and a plague of coral-eating starfish. The reef has lost around half its coral cover in the past 30 years.
The Reef 2050 plan sets a target of a 50% reduction in nitrogen and a 60% drop in pesticides flowing onto the reef by 2018. There is also a plan to protect dugongs and turtles. However, there is no new funding mentioned beyond the $40m Reef Trust program announced in the budget.